JAMA strengthens language in policy against prepublication disclosure

CHICAGO - The Journal of the American Medical Association has strengthened the language in its policy barring scientists from discussing the research they submit to the magazine before its published.

The new wording clarifies a 1991 statement co-authored by former editor Dr. George Lundberg, the journal's current editor says.

But it prompted sharp comments from Lundberg, who was dismissed last year after JAMA published a survey of college students' sexual attitudes that coincided with President Clinton's impeachment trial.

The rewritten policy, printed in Wednesday's JAMA, says authors of submitted manuscripts ''must not participate in press conferences or issue press releases before publication.''

With some exceptions, including studies presented at medical meetings, such authors also ''must refrain from granting interviews with the news media about the information under consideration, or accepted but not yet published, unless the journalist agrees to abide by the journal's embargo policy,'' the policy says.

The previous policy, published in JAMA in 1991, says the journal's editors ''prefer that the information not be released to the public,'' except at medical meetings, until JAMA publishes the study.

DeAngelis says the original language carried the same intent as the rewritten policy.

But Lundberg told The New York Times that ''use of the word 'must' in this context sounds far more prescriptive than the practice we maintained at JAMA in the 1990s.''

The policy ''seems heavy-handed and could intimidate authors, especially younger investigators,'' said Lundberg, now editor in chief of the online medical information site medscape.com.

DeAngelis disagreed, saying, ''What we published is exactly the way we've been practicing for the last several years.''

JAMA editors felt a need to clarify the policy because ''it's been a decade since we had anything in writing,'' she said.

The rules did not mention sanctions because there haven't been any blatant violations, she said.

The statement says the peer-review process that submitted research undergoes, as well as publication of the entire article instead of bits and pieces, helps ensure that the public gets accurate medical information.


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